Interventions at the laboratory level to reduce laboratory test ordering by family physicians: Systematic review

Clin Biochem. 2015 Dec;48(18):1358-65. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiochem.2015.09.014. Epub 2015 Oct 5.


Objectives: To assess the effectiveness of interventions by laboratories and to increase rational and reduce unnecessary family physician test ordering.

Design and methods: MEDLINE [1946-present], EMBASE [1980-present], EBM Reviews [1991-present](Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, ACP Journal Club, Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, - Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Methodology Register, Health Technology Assessment, NHS Economic Evaluation Database), PubMed [1966-present], PubMed Central [1900-present], Scopus [1960-present], Web of Science [1900-present] and CINAHL [1982-present] were searched with no language or publication limits. Non-randomised studies were assessed with the Newcastle-Ottawa scale.

Results: The search identified 9282 titles and abstracts, 238 were read in full-text and 3 cohort and 7 before- and after-studies were included. Most focused on changing a few tests and evaluated the interventions over several months. Seven changed laboratory forms (the two largest involved 5.2 million and 3.2 million tests), one negotiated a test ordering protocol with family physicians, and two required laboratory approval. They achieved an average 35% reduction in the 19 targeted tests, with a wide range (0%-100% reduction).

Conclusions: Ten studies were identified which tested interventions by laboratories to reduce test ordering by family physicians, and achieved an average 35% reduction in the 19 targeted tests. The rationale for choosing specific tests for intervention was often not explained, most studies targeted a few tests for several months, the tests and test volumes differed widely across studies, no author improved the results of previous interventions or asked participants their opinions about the intervention or assessed factors impeding change.

Keywords: Family physicians; Feedback; Laboratories; Utilisation.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / economics*
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Laboratories / economics*
  • Laboratories / statistics & numerical data
  • Medical Overuse / economics
  • Medical Overuse / prevention & control*
  • Physicians, Family / ethics*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / ethics